Solar Now Mandated in Two California Cities

Another California city is quickly following Lancaster’s footsteps, making solar mandatory on all new construction.

In March, Lancaster, California became the first city to mandate solar in the US, requiring it on all new residential construction. 

Now Sebastopol is following suit and it’s upping the ante by also requiring it on commercial buildings, and on major additions and renovations.

Lancaster requires just one kilowatt (kW) of solar per home on lots 7000 square feet or larger and 1.5 kW for homes in rural areas. That’s not enough to provide much power for most homes, but it sets a minimum and the city hopes homeowners will add more solar when they learn about government incentives.

Sebastopol’s ordinance goes much further, requiring that 75% of a building’s electricity come from solar each year. 

Another way to meet the requirement is to install two watts of solar per insulated square foot, which would put a typical 5 kW system on a 2,500-square-foot home. 

If a site isn’t conducive for solar, such as having too much shade, then energy efficiency upgrades would be allowed to compensate or the developer would pay a fee.

A solar system on a commercial building cost $40,000 to $75,000, but will pay for itself in about 5 years after tax incentives and rebates, Councilman Patrick Slayter told the Press Democrat.

The ordinance extends an existing mandate that requires new buildings to be "solar-ready." Last year, California adopted that requirement for the whole state in its updated energy code. requiring buildings to be "solar-ready."

Not much convincing is needed in Sebastopol, which highly values solar. With only 7500 residents, Sebastopol already has 1.2 megawatts of solar on homes, businesses and public buildings, generating the energy for 500,000 homes.

Sebastopol solar

Sebastopol has the most solar per capita in the US. "We have been pretty influential for such a small little town," Glenn Schainblatt, the city’s building official, told the Press Democrat. "People come up here and say we have solar everywhere."

In Sebastopol, the police drive hybrids and no pesticides are used for city landscaping.

Lancaster, which is in the Mohave desert just north of Los Angeles, is home to about 160,000 people and some of the biggest solar farms in California, such as the 230 MW Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One and 66 MW Alpine Solar project.

Other places that require solar include Hawaii, which mandates solar hot water on new homes, and Culver City, California, which requires solar PV on very large commercial developments.

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